Interviews with more than two dozen leading British rock and pop songwriters.
“God Save the Noise,” declares the knowledgeable writer/musician Rachel, whose celebratory debut gathers the voices of songwriters from Ray Davies of the Kinks, whose songs of sexual ambiguity reflect a music-hall tradition, to folk musician Laura Marling, one of a handful of female singer-songwriters included here. Rachel traces the beginning of modern British pop to John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s “Love Me Do” (1962), and he has selected the songwriters based on their “depth, originality and imagination.” Uniformly interesting, the lengthy interviews explore every imaginable aspect of the art, from the songwriters’ beliefs and working practices to sources of inspiration to such technical matters as rhyme, harmony and melody. As Bryan Ferry (Roxy Music) says, there’s “no fixed way of working,” a sentiment echoed by many of the songwriters. “I’ve found the most stuff comes out when I’m really down or I’m really feeling up,” says Andy Partridge of XTC, whose “creative highpoints were undermined by mental-health problems, addiction to prescription drugs and diminishing sales returns.” Others find songs come to them at unpredictable times. “They’re not so much songs as slices of life,” says John Lydon (Sex Pistols). “They’re stories.” Says Annie Lennox: “You just have to capture the ideas as they come.” Robin Gibb (Bee Gees) likens the search for melody to playing Scrabble: “[Y]ou’re constantly looking for seven-letter words.” The interviewees range from acclaimed artist Sting, who says he is less interested in finding a place in history for songs like “Fields of Gold” than in “getting through the show without fucking up,” to the lesser-known renegade Lee Mavers (the La’s), who hasn’t released a song in 25 years. Others include Jimmy Page, Joan Armatrading, Noel Gallagher, Jarvis Cocker, Lily Allen, Billy Bragg, Damon Albarn, Paul Weller and Johnny Marr.
A splendid treat for music aficionados.